Everyone has their own way of cooking the Christmas turkey and far be it from me to interfere with precious family traditions. A couple of years ago I ditched the tried and tested silver foil and experimented with muslin.
The turkey was wrapped in this delicate perforated cloth that had been well soaked in a bath of butter and dry cider. As the bird cooks this allows it to remain moist, protected by the buttery material.
It’s a good idea to remove the seasonal cooking jacket about an hour before it’s ready to ensure that the skin browns evenly. Some people complain that turkey is dry but in fact if you don’t overcook it, it should remain juicy and succulent. Allow 20 minutes cooking time per pound of bird and remember the old adage, an extra 20 minutes at the end for luck.
For a polar opposite, guaranteed dry alternative to the turkey you could consider roasting a duck. This fowl is particularly good for small numbers. The recipe here is for an old school inspired recipe with a spiced orange glaze. Traditionally, orange was very effectively used to cut through the richness of the duck but more recently has fallen out of favour and these days is considered a bit of a cliché. It’s been given a revamp here with a spices, brandy and maple infused, thick syrupy citrus glaze.
For many, a festive dinner isn’t the same without the addition of Brussels Sprouts. Personally and professionally, they evoke a lot of unhappy memories for me. When I was training to be a chef I worked in a restaurant where the Head Chef insisted the bottom of every single sprout was scored. The repetitious tedium of this procedure nearly sent me over the edge.
Even at a young age I knew that this was indeed a futile, useless act. Little did I think back then that it would continue to haunt me especially in the run up to Christmas. To this day, wasting time is a sure-fire way of raising my blood pressure. Just when I am lulled into a false sense of being over this culinary trauma, to add insult to injury, many restaurants either grossly overcook Brussel Sprouts or go to the other extreme rendering them with the same properties as squash balls that have long since lost their bounce.
The best way to treat these verdant, cabbage like orbs is to disguise them in big, bold flavours. Cooking them with crispy bacon is a classic way of adding a bit of a spring to their bite. For me there’s a repetitive texture issue with sprouts so it’s a good idea to pep them up with crispy onions, nuts and seeds. In a final attempt to dispel any lingering feelings of negativity i add some salty soy and chilli to the mix in the hope that all will be forgiven, and that Brussel Sprouts should in fact be for life, not just for Christmas.
Golden roasted potatoes, straight from the oven are a necessity for any gathering, never mind a festive one. Like sprouts they are a contentious thing. Some people like duck fat, others goose, even dripping. The truth is it doesn’t really matter. Personally, I use a local rapeseed oil – you get the same sunny hued spuds but don’t feel the need for a lie down afterwards that you may get with richer fats. An added bonus that will leave you feeling razor sharp when it comes to any postprandial games of Scrabble.
What you’ll need
1 duck (approximately 2kg)
200ml orange juice
50g dark brown sugar
50g maple syrup
1 stick cinnamon
10g grated root ginger
½ tsp allspice
Set oven to 190oC.
Boil the orange juice, brandy, sugar, maple syrup and spices to a thick syrup. Strain through a sieve to remove whole spices.
Pour a kettle of boiling water all over the duck and pat dry with kitchen paper. Season with salt and then place the duck breast side down in a pan and cook gently until golden brown – about 10 minutes. Transfer to a roasting tin (keep the fat for roasties) and roast for 40 minutes per kilo (one hour and 20 minutes for a 2 kg duck), brushing with the glaze every 15 minutes. When cooked rest for 20 minutes and brush the remaining glaze over the top.
Carve off the legs and remove breasts and slice.
What you’ll need
For the crispy onions
2 onions, peeled and finely sliced
Plain flour seasoned with mustard powder, smoked paprika, salt and pepper
Oil for frying
Toss the onions in the flour and shake off the excess. Heat a thumb nail depth of oil in a frying pan and when a little flour sizzles when added, add the onions (do this in batches to not overcrowd the pan). Cook until crisp and golden, dry on kitchen paper, and hold in a warm oven as you cook the rest.
For the sprouts
1kg sprouts, cut in half through the root
2 tbsp oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
1 tsp chopped red chilli
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tsp nigella seeds
50g flaked almonds
1 tsp honey
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
Cook the sprouts in boiling water until just cooked and drain well.
Heat the oil in a large pan or wok and add the garlic, onion and chilli. Cook until golden then add the sesame oil, seeds, almonds, honey, soy and vinegar. Add the sprouts and toss well. Place in a bowl and scatter over the fried onions and garnish with fresh coriander.
What you’ll need
12 potatoes, peeled – roughly the same size Roosters, Maris Piper or King Edwards are all good
Fat of your choice – goose fat, rapeseed oil, duck fat, lard, dripping….
Seasoned flour for dusting
Set oven to 200oC and cover the bottom of a roasting tin with the fat of choice
Place in oven to heat.
Par boil the potatoes and drain and dry.
Toss in seasoned flour shaking off the excess.
Add to the hot oil and roast, turning occasionally until crisp and golden and cooked through.